Technology Trends to Watch in 2018: Microbiome

Lux Research’s 18 for 2018 – Using data and insights to spot disruptive technologies

Every year, Lux uses its primary research engine to stay on top of key emerging tech innovations and trends across all of our coverage areas to develop a report on the “Top Technologies to Watch in 20XX” based on our analysts’ findings. Our 2018 report, “18 for 2018,” highlights the top 18 technologies to watch for in 2018 and beyond.

Perhaps it is no surprise that machine learning appears on the list, given the current hype around the field, but there are other technologies that haven’t gotten as much mainstream hype yet came up high on Lux’s 18 for 2018 list.

A microbiome is a group of microbial organisms living in a given environment. Plants, soil, animals, processing equipment, healthcare facilities, and other environments can all have unique microbiomes.  Microbes (and their genes) can be used as ingredients, therapeutics, and health biomarkers across a wide range of industries. Technologies to assess and manipulate microbiomes have experienced a meteoric rise in innovation interest over the past five years.

While probiotic food and drink for better digestion have been clear trends for a while, there’s much more to the microbiome. For example, just browsing the publications on our member site, there are a number of profiles of companies using the microbiome to improve mental health, reduce fertilizer use, treat diabetes, and prevent tooth decay – all just in the past two months. Lux members can read more and receive real-time data updates on our Microbiome Tech Page.

Lux Research 2018 Trends Microbiome

Why is the microbiome so important?  This innovation area has the potential to unlock a new layer of personalization across food, personal care products, medicine, and more. However, we’ve only scratched the surface. We still need to define “optimal” microbiome profiles for each use case, but the meteoric rise in innovation activity is leading science in that direction. Products that address health and productivity through the microbiome seem to hit a veritable “sweet spot” in consumers’ minds – retaining just enough of the aura of “natural” to be appealing while also carrying legitimate benefits for their users.

In a recent webinar, “It’s Personal: The Next Big Focus in Food,” we discussed a number of companies, both small and large, that are jostling for market position along the spectrum of personalized nutrition solutions. Although it is at its core a diet, personalized nutrition does offer the potential to shift the healthcare paradigm from disease treatment to disease prevention, and the microbiome is one of the key tools companies are using to build personalized nutrition solutions.

To make recommendations more powerful – and therefore more effective – personalized nutrition providers are shifting from relying on physical attributes like weight and activity data to more personal biological markers of health like genetic and microbiome data. While a person’s genes are static, their microbiome will fluctuate throughout the course of each day, week, month, and year, and its status can provide a near-real-time snapshot of a person’s digestive health. However, today two challenges remain to achieving the holy grail of meaningful personalized nutrition recommendations based on real-time, continuous microbiome measurements: (1) The science of connecting microbiome signatures to health status is still in its infancy, and (2) a stool sample to yield a single-time-point microbiome assessment remains the sampling status quo.

For more on these opportunities and challenges, and for analysis of the technologies in development today, stay tuned for our upcoming report, “Let’s Get Personal: Constructing a Powerful Personalized Nutrition Solution.”

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